Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Sky is Not Falling

In today’s world, we cruise through video web conferencing, webinars, and email embedded movies with the confidence of a navy captain.  But that confidence is sometimes quickly shattered when we just can’t get what we want on screen.

It doesn’t matter if you’re on a laptop, desktop, mac, or pc, we’ve all been so frustrated with the technology that we ironically love so much that we yell at the screen asking, "Why won’t you just DO IT?"

As in any heated situation, the key to getting back to your happy place of sailing along with your presentation, project, or planning your next trip is to keep a cool level head and know it will be OK.

First – eliminate the "unknown but temporory possibilites."  This could be a momentary blip in the network, a glitch in the program, or your own "fat finger."  How do you know if this is the simple cause of your frustrations?

Try it again.   But don’t just keep hitting "send" "submit" or "download."  Log out.  Close your browser and all browser windows that may be open.  You may even need to reboot.  Then walk away and get a cup of coffee.  Fresh java in hand, now try it again.  More times than not, you’re back in business and not on the road to the helpdesk. 

The key is to keep a clear head and know that many perceived program failures are actually just momentary glitches.

And for the record – ironically – as I was writing this blog, my screen went gray and I had to re-boot, losing everything.  There is no explanation – I just moved on and tried  not to mourn the eloquence lost from the first version.  :-)

Online Forms: Green, with Benefits

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

The use of online forms helps your business become more productive, helps you provide better customer service and as an added benefit saving paper is green!

Being “Green” is trendy. Being “Green” makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing. Giving the impression of being “Green” makes you look good to your customers. Appearing to be “Green” is an effective marketing tool for products that, according to one study, are only 1% likely to really be beneficial for the environment. As a business person, you know that in a competitive environment you can’t afford to fall for Greenwashing and hype when the time comes to find ways to make your operation more green – it makes sense to be skeptical. On the other hand, when you can find genuinely environmentally friendly practices that have additional benefits for your business, that’s a win-win situation.

We’ve found that one such win-win situation in our work is the use of online forms for collecting information from customers. Using an online form instead of a paper form saves the paper and the resources that went into making it, transporting it, and printing on it. But there are many other benefits to an online form that have nothing to do with saving paper. For example, the data you receive is in a format that you can cut and paste, reducing retyping time and human errors that take time to correct and can cause delays in a project. If your customers are in the habit of leaving out important information on paper forms, you can make those fields required on an online form, and the customer will not be able to send the form without completing it. This not only eliminates the time it would have taken to contact the customer for the necessary information, but also you will be able to turn around projects more quickly, which improves customer service and your profits. Another productivity increase that comes with online forms is the ability to send the data to multiple recipients with one click, saving time that might otherwise be spent gathering the information and making it available to colleagues who need it. With online forms there is an opportunity to upsell or give your customers better service by providing links to information that you want your customers to have, either on the form itself or on a web page where they are directed after completion.

None of the benefits I’ve mentioned so far are new – online forms have been around for awhile. What is new are some of the added functions that you can add to forms and landing pages with products like email marketing by Exact Target and automated, on demand voice messaging by Vontoo. It is now possible to send a voice message or a text message to a customer’s mobile device at their request with forms and other triggered sends. It’s possible to show them a personalized image on a landing page that is generated by completing a form or by a click in an email – for an example see this Personalized Landing Pages demonstration – or wow them even more with a rich media Brainshark presentation with customized content that reflects the customer’s input from the form.

Please contact us if you would like to deploy any of these exciting new techniques in your customer acquisition program.

Still Keeping in Close Contact with Customers

It’s hard to believe that webinars and internet marketing tools are still relatively new concepts in some companies.  Just before my 7-year maternity leave back in 2000, I was helping my sales team at MCI Conferencing introduce the concept of “web-based data conferencing” to our customers which included Xerox.  Ironically, though we never met, within a few months of my leave, my boss, Mark, was working at Xerox on the team that was developing the Xerox Webinar program.

It’s 8 years later, and we have been working together for almost a year in a much different technology and a much different world than we had in 2000 and early 2001.

What better time than now are we all positioned to make the most of this technology!  Want to really partner with your customers?  Let them know that their success is important to you!

In your customer acquisition, build a reliable and approved list of customers, and give them information, presentations, and tools to help them grow their own business while you grow yours.

Look for synergies between your customer’s industry and your own, and build a presentation series around it.   Back in 2000, my VP of sales partnered with one of my customer’s VP of Sales to conduct a short webinar series at both companies.

Today, we have customers who do the same, and then also bring in industry experts to a “round table.”  The presentation is then broadcast on a webinar, and provide the Brainshark replay later as an on-demand “webinar for one” for those who missed the live version.

Every company should have a regularly scheduled presentation series designed to help their customers grow their own base. Your monthly or quarterly newsletter should have a dedicated space for your webinar news. 

Our customers always provide live links to register for upcoming webinars, and to go directly to the Brainshark replays of webinars that have passed.  We are also developing personalized landing pages for key customer contacts. These are like a little mini-reference books compressed down to a singular web page that provides the customer with all the tools and reference points he needs for past, current and upcoming web events.

Mark and I marvel at how closely we missed each other back in 2000, when our entire business was a budding technology.  With the tools of today, we’d be much less likely to miss each other, now.